Sunday, July 17, 2011

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez: ARC Review

Seventeen-year-old Carmen Bianchi is a violin prodigy and is constantly being pushed by her mother, a former opera singer who was forced to cut her own career short due to the deterioration of her singing voice. She now relives her career vicariously through her daughter, who must take prescription medication in order to calm her nerves when she performs. Clearly Carmen is a ticking time bomb.

We meet Carmen a few days away from a very prestigious violin competition where she meets Jeremy, the gorgeous Brit who is her main rival for the title. Instead of staying away from him like she knows she should, she attempts to get closer and closer to him. But will her attempt to befriend Jeremy be the demise of her own career?

I want to start off first with a thank you to Jessica Martinez. It isn't very often that I can find a young adult novel that is "clean" enough to recommend to my sixth graders.Yet despite Carmen's issues and need to medicate herself in order to be at top performance level, this really is a book that I would consider appropriate for younger junior high students looking to delve into more mature plots.

The prologue starts the story off with a bang, jamming us right into the climax with no context for what is happening or why Carmen is acting in such a way. You are immediately intrigued and want to keep reading.

However, once you are jammed into the prologue, the first few chapters meander along and don't get really interesting until Carmen and Jeremy begin their "forbidden" relationship.

Carmen and Jeremy's relationship was surprisingly endearing to me. It begins for Carmen as a way to spite her mother, but the more she's with him, the more stable and comfortable in her own skin she becomes. You're actually rooting for Carmen to run off with Jeremy instead of stay with her oppressive mother. As someone who doesn't usually favor stories where running of with a gorgeous male character is the "solution" to the conflict, I'd have to say this is one of those stories where I was kind of hoping it would happen. Whether or not she does is obviously for you to figure out by reading the story, but I will say that if you're a person who enjoys stories about the competitive world of music, or are fascinated with children who have insanely competitive stage mothers, then this is the book for you.

My only criticism of the book is that I don't think Martinez gave us enough exposition behind why this competition was so important to Carmen and her mother. This is a girl who has already won a Grammy, has been accepted to Julliard, and plays a $1.2 million Stradivarius. It seemed to me that this competition was chump change compared to what she had already accomplished. I needed to understand what was so special about this particular competition and I never really felt like that was explained enough. This perhaps could be because I don't live inside the world of classical music, but then again, most people don't. Still, I played classical piano for 13 years so I'm not a complete heathen when it comes to classical music. I'd say I'm probably more educated about it than the average YA reader and even still, I couldn't see the significance of the competition for Carmen given all that she'd already accomplished.

Other than that though this was an engaging read and definitely recommended for anyone who read and loved Sara Bennett Wealer's Rival. This book is set to be released October 18th so pre-order your copy today!

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Publish Date: October 18, 2011 by Simon Pulse
Source: Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab
Pages: 304
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds good! I loved Rival, and I really like books about mother-daughter relationships where the mother is kind of a "stage mother" and whatnot. I'm adding it to my TBR list. Thanks for the review!